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Telling my children or much needed Comic Relief

Updated: May 4, 2020

As I stated earlier my daughter had a major dance competition that weekend so we made the decision to tell our kids the news on Sunday night. I dreaded this task because as a mother you want them to feel protected and safe. I knew when I told them this news, their world would be forever changed. We had been blessed at this point to never really have had any real tragedy in our lives. How do I tell my kids I have cancer? How would they handle this? I made the decision that cancer was not going to define me, I was not going to let cancer own me. I had cancer, cancer didn’t have me. I wasn’t defeated. This was life and all its imperfections. I needed my children to see and understand this.

Even though cancer physically affected me, it mentally affected my family. While I was just coping with the diagnosis, I had to figure out how to help my children through this. I was the one who had cancer but as a parent it couldn’t be just about me, I had children to be concerned about (okay and my husband, though I kinda lump him in with the kids – lol!). I wanted my children to know that life is going to throw you curve balls, it’s how you handle it that matters. That was important to me. They needed to know that bad things are going to happen in life. No one gets away with a buy. It’s how you handle them that makes the difference. Oh yeah, and while I’m trying to be brave in front of them, I’m still scared!

If anyone has teenage sons you will understand what I’m about to tell you. We told our oldest son on Saturday afternoon. Nick never gets flustered. I think I’ve seen him lose his temper three times in his entire life. Calm, cool and collected; that’s him (I think that’s why he’s a great pilot). My husband and I tell him. He handles it with the usual aplomb. He understands the prognosis and seems good. He leaves that night to go back to school and I’m feeling good about him. Another lesson learned: He wasn’t okay – he was away at school and took it hard. I needed to be more aware of what was going on with him.

On Sunday night, once we’re home from the dance competition, we ask Riley and Anthony to sit with us. I worry about my other two, both extremely sensitive souls. I want the approach to be just right. I had thought long and hard about this. I wanted to make sure when I was done telling my children, they were not scared and understood this wasn’t a death sentence, it was a bump in the road. I was going to be alright, that this would give us “pearls” along the way. I tell you my planned speech was Oscar worthy.

We sat Anthony and Riley down and I began my “epic” speech. I began to speak and immediately got choked up. Looking at their faces, I couldn’t get the words out. I turned to my husband with pleading eyes hoping for his help. This turned out to be a really bad idea. He looked at me with panic in his eyes turns to the kids and blurts out “Your mom has cancer!” I’m thinking: Say what?!? Really?!? “Are you kidding me?!”

Suffice to say, that snapped me out of my crying. Not quite the delivery I was aiming for but nonetheless got their attention. (Another lesson learned – let your husband know practiced speech before hand, in case he has to pinch hit for you!) My melancholy gone and knowing if I let him speak anymore, my kids would be more than scared, I began talking to my children.

With the two of them listening, I explained how I was extremely lucky and that the cancer was contained and caught in the very early stages. My daughter immediately asks “Am I going to get it?” My response is No. She then asks: “You mean like the breast cancer that Mimi had last year?” (My mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer the year prior and had undergone a lumpectomy and radiation). Now my son Anthony, who had been listening intently but not said a thing yet, pipes up and says: “Mimi had breast cancer last year?” OMG – he seriously asked this? No reaction to my news but he looked incredulous that his grandmother had breast cancer the year prior. I can’t help it – I burst out laughing. I’m thinking two things (a) thanks for the comic relief Anthony and (b) Once again proof that teenage boys do live in their own world! Kids informed of my diagnosis – Check. Now on to informing my mother.


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